|The Week That Was
May 11, 2002
1. THREE KINDS OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM: Impacts on nuclear reactors are
mostly hype. "Dirty" bombs that disperse radioactivity scare
but don't kill. Real nuclear bombs pose a serious danger and can destroy
2. SOUND OPPOSITION TO THE KYOTO PROTOCOL FROM GREAT BRITAIN
3. AS RHETORIC ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING RISES, WE SHOULD REMEMBER THE PANIC ABOUT GLOBAL COOLING IN THE 1970s. If cooling is bad, then warming must be good. Right?
4. THE IPCC IS FINALLY GETTING AROUND TO DEFINING A GOAL FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND WILL PREPARE A SCOOPING PAPER. Good Luck, Fellas!
5. AL GORE RE-EMERGES ON THE POLITICAL SCENE WITH AN INTEMPERATE OP-ED IN THE NY TIMES (APRIL 21).
6. THE IPCC REPLIES TO LORNE GUNTER, COLUMNIST, EDMONTON JOURNAL, WHO COMPLAINED THAT CANADA WAS GETTING TOO COLD.
2 Green Taliban
LONDON -- With the sad death of The Queen Mother, two contrasting news items relating to 'global warming,' the Kyoto Protocol and the United Kingdom have received far less coverage in the British press than they would normally have merited.
One marks the establishment of the first fully developed national scheme in the world for trading so-called greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Pilot projects already exist in Denmark and the Netherlands, and similar schemes are under discussion elsewhere, such as in Canada and New Zealand. The British scheme, however, has now started (with only 36 companies, although it is open to all types of business).
But the second news item is even more interesting. Despite the British government's high moral rhetoric on curbing the emission of greenhouse gases, the emissions of carbon dioxide have risen in Britain for the second year running. In 1999, 150.8 m tons of CO2 were produced. That amount rose by 0.5% in 2000 and by 0.4% in 2001. And the trend continues upwards. Brian Wilson, the Energy Minister, admitted that Britain would have "a real and tough challenge to meet its environmental targets."
Clearly, UK companies wish to ensure that they have something to trade under the new scheme!
The False Agendas of Kyoto
But what we are really witnessing is the first evidence of the false political and economic agendas being set in Europe under the 'command-and-control' economics of the deeply flawed Kyoto Protocol.
The treaty sets severe restrictions on carbon emissions, and thus on energy use. But when crafting Kyoto, few international bureaucrats took into account the much-needed economic growth and the consequent rising demand for energy from those people around the globe that will be affected by the treaty.
Only this week, a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the world demand for energy would rise by as much as 60% over the next two decades. The agency also said that oil would be the dominant source of that energy and that it would be likely to augment releases of carbon dioxide by as much as 3.8 billion metric tons per year in 2020.
No wonder the United Kingdom is toiling. The Kyoto targets are utterly unrealistic for any thriving economy. Total world carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase by 62% between 1999 and 2020.
Secondly, the implementation of Kyoto is shaping up to be a bureaucratic boondoggle. There are already complaints from 'Green' organizations -- the very ones demanding the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol -- to the effect that the new British trading scheme (and its accompanying greenhouse gas compensation payments) represents a serious misuse of public funds.
The government has been so keen to inaugurate the program that it has pledged some £215 m over five years to the companies prepared to participate. But critics claim that payments are being given to companies that are already shrinking their businesses, and which would thus have reduced their gas emissions anyway. Even worse, they argue, payments are being handed out to companies for emission reductions that have already been planned or even achieved. Environmental Data Services alleges that one company is benefiting by millions of pounds for a reduction achieved before it took over the industrial works concerned.
If all this is already happening in the small trading framework established in Britain, just think of the situation if ever carbon trading were to go worldwide (and London is very keen to promote -- and control -- this worldwide development, hence the rush). Billions of dollars would be lost to economies like those of Russia and the Ukraine, the greenhouse gas emissions of which are already way below their 1990 levels for reasons all too obvious and painful to note. The political and economic shenanigans in a global system would be horrendous.
Despite these problems, another response to Kyoto in the United Kingdom is to push for renewable sources of energy, from waves to wind. But even this is beginning to backfire. As wind farms start to mar some of the most beautiful and historic landscapes of the British Isles, it is suddenly dawning on country folk that the Kyoto agenda may not be quite so benign after all.
One eminent bishop of the Church of England has recently described a proposal to place 39 wind turbines at Cefn Croes, below the nearly iconic Plynlimon Mountain in mid-Wales, as an act of vandalism equivalent to the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. (And guess from where the proposals for these particular monsters emanated? An Enron subsidiary, Enron Wind.) The Council for the Protection of Rural Wales has declared a different proposal to cover the Cambrian hills as a "declaration of war" on their mountains.
The British press is full of daily injunctions to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to lecture President Bush during his forthcoming Texas sojourn on everything from Israel to the Kyoto Protocol. Perhaps Mr. Bush should, in turn, remind Mr. Blair that the UK is slipping badly on its own Kyoto targets, that these are nonsense in economic terms, that the UK is subsidizing industries under a skewed environmental agenda, and that it is about to destroy some of the last truly 'Green' wildernesses remaining in the British Isles, all in the name of Kyoto. The Kyoto Protocol is increasingly dangerous; it must not be ratified.
Philip Stott is Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at the University of London.
3. The Cooling World
There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas - parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia - where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.
The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree - a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.
To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. "A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale," warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, "because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century."
A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.
To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth's average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras - and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average. Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the "little ice age" conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 - years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.
Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. "Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data," concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. "Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."
Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short- term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases - all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.
"The world's food-producing system," warns Dr. James D. McQuigg
of NOAA's Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, "is much
more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago."
Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national
boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their
devastated fields, as they did during past famines.
4. The 1992 Rio Climate Treaty, in Article 2, defines the goal of the Treaty: Stabilization of greenhouse gases at a level that would not be "dangerous to the climate system." But what is this level? We don't know
IPCC Scoping Paper: Prepared by a dozen climate scientists we have never heard of (incl only one from the US), but after consultation with an even longer list, which alphabetically arranged, for yr convenience, include unknowns from Albania to Zambia. This paper will finally give us the answer we all have been waiting for a decade: what should be the goal of the Climate Treaty?
Of course, if we don't know the goal, then any policy will take us there, incl no policy at all.
5. Al Gore re-emerges on the political scene with an intemperate op-ed in the NY Times (April 21).
His article features a scathing attack on Bush's Clear Sky Initiative
to reduce pollution from power plants. It also includes a gratuitous insult
of Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the newly elected chairman of the IPCC, who
defeated Gore's protégé Robert Watson. [For Pachauri-Watson
contest, see TWTW of 20 April http://www.sepp.org/weekwas/2002/April20.htm].
[The US supported Pachauri.] Here is Pachauri's spirited reply and an
endorsement of the Bush plan by two experts from MIT.
In a Letter to the Editor (NY Times, May 1) Pachauri wrote: "Mr. Gore's derogatory statements about me reflect a deep disappointment at my election as chairman of the [IPCC], with 76 votes for me against 49 for his protégé, Dr. Robert T. Watson.
"In a 1999 speech, Mr. Gore, referring to my 'commitment,' 'vision' and 'dedication,' said; 'Pachy is the one person in the world who could bring us all here.... He is known all over the community of concerned men and women as someone with the intellect and the heart.
"In 'Earth in the Balance,' Mr. Gore acknowledged me 'among the other scientists who have been helpful in giving me advice during the writing of this book.
"Would the real Al Gore stand up? Does what he says today hold no value tomorrow?"
5B. Evaluating Bush's Clear Skies Initiative
Some environmental specialists are giving President Bush's Clear Skies plan high marks. They say his efforts to cut power plant emissions can result in huge reductions, employing innovative strategies to fight air pollution.
Clear Skies would impose hard caps on power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions -- requiring reductions of about 70 percent from today's levels over 10 to 15 years. Clear Skies would take a different approach to pollution reduction than the current Clean Air Act:
The key is utilizing the cap-and-trade process, rather than command-and-control regulations, thus allowing sources to trade emissions permits -- so that those facing very costly clean-up bills can effectively pay for emissions reductions by others with lower costs.
The cap-and-trade program would make no distinction between new sources of pollution and old sources -- whereas the different requirements for "old source" pollution versus "new source" pollution under the Clean Air Act has been a problem.
The Clean Air Act has required old plants to meet stricter standards when their useful lives ran out; perversely, this has increased the value of old plants without expensive new pollution control technology, since old plants are allowed to continue operating indefinitely.
Instead, under Clear Skies, plant owners would get both the incentive to reduce emissions and the flexibility to find the cheapest cleanup strategies for key pollutants without regard to a plant's age.
Source: NCPA summary of A. Denny Ellerman and Paul L. Joskow (both Massachusetts
6. Lorne Gunter to IPCC:
"What I want to know is, once you have finished saving the world by social-engineering a safer climate, could you please consider imposing a temperature redistribution program? It really isn't fair that parts of the world enjoy temperature riches, while decent people such as those of us on the Canadian Prairies are freezing our behinds off and shovelling out our driveways a month into Spring. And if you can pull off an end to climate change by creating a worldwide nanny state, then surely to God it's not too much to ask that you impose a temperature welfare scheme after that."
IPCC Letter to a freezing Canadian
Dear Mr. Gunter
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has convened a special panel to consider your complaint. We want to assure you that we take all points of view into consideration when jumping to our conclusions. The Special Joint Commission on Western Canadian Impacts of Global Warming conducted a series of workshops last year in Montserrat, Vienna, Costa del Sol, Canberra, Monaco, Napa, Marrakech and Cologne. During this time it was decided by the world's top paid scientists that frigid temperatures in April and May in Alberta are consistent with model projections of global warming. So would warm temperatures in April and May, but this uncertainty should not be a barrier to us telling everyone else how to live. After all, if we let that stop us, what would be left for the UN to do? We conclude that the need for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more pressing than ever. Therefore, please refrain from turning on your furnace during cold weather.
[Actually, the author of this witty reply is Ross McKitrick, economist and global warming skeptic from the University of Guelph.]